Stedmen’s Medical Dictionary describes capsaicin as “a colorless irritant phenolic amide C18H27NO3 that is found in various capsicums and that gives hot peppers their hotness .” The dictionary does NOT go on to say that when you’ve got capsaicin in it’s “colorless” state, the crystals are pretty much weapons-grade irritants. It’s the active ingredient in pepper spray, after all.
Peppers are typically measured on the Scoville scale, where you puree the pepper, and then dilute with water until you can’t taste the spice anymore. There are less subjective mechanisms now for generating the numbers, but to give you an example, Tabasco sauce rates around 2500, which means you have to add 2500 parts of water to one part Tabasco before it’s not spicy any longer. That may seem pretty hot, but Police grade pepper spray rates around 2,000,000. Pure capsaicin is up around 5.3 million, and apparently there are a couple of mutations of the molecule like Nordihydrocapsaicin which are even hotter.
Like it matters. When you’re up in the millions, capsaicin is a munition, not a foodstuff.
I love spicy food. I’ve got a bottle of hot sauce that rates between 40,000 and 75,000 Scoville — it’s called “Blair’s Sudden Death Sauce”– and last night I used it on the last of our leftover curried rice.
A word on capsaicin’s effects: if you get enough in your mouth, and it doesn’t take much at all, the pain and heat receptors shut down, but not before giving you a tremendous jolt. You get some endorphins as well. This is why people like extremely spicy food — there’s an endorphin rush associated with tricking your oral cavity into believing that you’ve eaten a live coal. Once you’ve had this experience, there is a gating effect, which means you can fire things up much hotter next time without feeling like you’re going to die.
So… about a week ago I was over at
Last night’s curry was a non-event. I got four drops and a couple of dried-up bottleneck chunks into maybe a cup and a half of curried rice (with walnuts, apples, raisins, and green peppers… yum!) and sat down to watch a movie. I plowed through the rice like there was nothing on it. Sure, I could taste the heat. Yes, I got that endorphin kick. But there was no pain. This means I’ve successfully gated the nerves in my cake hole down several notches, to the point where I can eat Weapons of Mouth Destruction with relative impunity.
The sad thing… nobody else in my home likes spicy foods the way I do. We prepared that curry as mild as could be for the kids, and they STILL complained that it was too spicy. Thus, I’m relegated to doctoring leftovers for my capsaicin fix.